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Abkhazia celebrates 200 years of Russification

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Thursday, March 18
A special academic conference dedicated to the 200th anniversary of Abkhazia’s incorporation into the Russian Federation was held at Moscow’s International Relations Institute on March 16. It was attended by Sergey Shamba, the so-called Prime Minister of de facto Abkhazia, Russian Foreign Ministry representatives and other members of the Russian Government.

“The Foreign Ministry and the Russian Government are undertaking continual targeted activities to achieve the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but this is a long process; just remember that the Soviet Union was not recognised for many years. It is very important that Russia and Abkhazia have frequent meetings and negotiations. 34 business documents have already been signed by our Government and Abkhazia and very soon this number will be 50,” stated the Chair of the Fourth Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Andrey Kelin, who added that the Foreign Ministry of Russia is doing its best to fulfill all the demands made by President Dmitry Medvedev concerning Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Ministry is mostly interested in ensuring the security of the regions and providing social assistance for the locals.

Shamba presented a report at the meeting in which he said that the regulation of Georgian-Abkhazian relations will only be possible after appropriate people come into the Georgian Government. "We have always looked for an acceptable variant while talking with the Georgian Government, but this country’s authority never compromises. We are neighbours and should have positive relations, but for this to be done it is very necessary that appropriate people come into power,” Shamba said. The Georgian Government has frequently said that neither in Russia nor so-called Abkhazia and South Ossetia is there a democratic Government while Georgia has a leader with democratic and modern views.

The latest Russian attempt to persuade another country to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia has failed, if Russia is to be believed. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stated on March 16 that he was displeased by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s refusal to recognise the breakaway regions and connected it with Minsk’s desire to improve relations with the West. However Putin also said, "If Belarus improves its relations with the West at the expense on not recognising of Abkhazia and South Ossetia we welcome this, as Russia has always supported the normalisation of relations between Belarus and Western countries.” News agency RIA Novosti commented that, "Belarus has been dragging its feet for more than a year on the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but experts believe Minsk is afraid that this move would worsen its relations with the European Union.” No official decision on recognition has yet been made. Lukashenko is currently visiting Venezuela, and rumours have been spread in various media sources that he went to Venezuela to avoid meeting the Russian premier, but his Press Service has called these allegations groundless.

Georgian analyst Nika Chitadze says that Belarus is not actually interested in Abkhazia and South Ossetia but is using the situation for its own ends. "Russia has continually put pressure on Belarus to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Belarus does not want to spoil relations with either Russia or the EU and is therefore procrastinating over this. Official Minsk is trying to gain as much profit as possible from the situation and everything depends on how much Russia and the Western countries will offer it. If Russia offers Belarus low gas tariffs and other financial support it might think about recognising these Georgian territories,” Chitadze told Interpressnews on March 17.